Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Adoption Finalization!

 We did it! We not only got certified as foster parents, found a child, brought that child home to be our foster daughter, but we have finally adopted her! I think that's why they call it "Finalization" .... because everybody involved is thinking "finally!" :)

Meet Ana Marie Hayes, our new daughter!

She's kind and caring, nurturing and extroverted, artistic and strong. Basically, like all new children are to their parents, she's practically perfect in every way. 

We finalized her adoption on October 6th, 2014 in the courthouse near Kyle's old church. Our judge was even a member of his former congregation so that was nice! She loves doing adoptions (here's a secret: all judges love adoption hearings) and was so happy to be involved. Our social workers were there too, which was such a blessing because they've really been there with us and Ana every step of the way for the past year. 

Providentially, we scheduled our fall family photo shoot the day before the adoption so we had all these lovely pictures to share with people that day on Facebook. It seriously was providential that it happened that way, we didn't know about the court hearing until less than 2 weeks before and we'd scheduled the photo session before that.

Everyone was excited. The boys could hardly contain themselves....though that could also be because they are 6 and 3 year old boys. But really, they were as involved in this as we were. Just as they'd be involved in praying and preparing for and meeting a new baby born to our family they were involved in the adoption, probably even more so because it all feels so....planned. Ya know? I mean, pregnancies are a private matter, something really only a husband and wife can decide and they are often up to the whims of nature and circumstance. But adoptions have to really be pursued and talked about ahead of time. At least that was our experience.

While we were waiting for Ana for 9 months (funny how that works) between being licensed as foster parents and being matched with her, I suggested to Tobias that we pray for the child we wanted to adopt, whoever he or she was. He told me that he was going to pray for a big sister who laughed a lot and liked to play games. Well, he got it for sure! 

Peter is our strong silent type (except when he's being rowdy with his brother). He was shy about Ana acting like a sister at first but also had that quiet excited grin on his face that he only gets when he's REALLY excited. He warmed up even more later and even lets her kiss his boo boos sometimes, a privilege usually reserved for me. 

When Ana moved in I kind of thought Peter and Tahlia might bond more and that Ana and Tobias would clique up. But it turned out so completely different! Ana immediately took to Tahlia (what better salve for an abandoned tween's heart than a cheerful baby to love on?). Tahlia was 9 months old when Ana moved in and so she won't ever remember not having a big sister. I think that's nice. While the rest of us can remember this special transition for Ana, Tahlia can give her the unique gift of permanence, of having always known she's there. 

Honestly life is pretty much the same now as it was before the adoption was finalized. But there is a slight shift, a sigh of relief knowing she's ours and we're hers. A knowledge that she has tested us and found us constant, if not perfect. Caring, if not always patient. Parents, if not by birth. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sprucing Up the Boys Bedroom: Sometimes 6 Year Olds Make Good Interior Designers

Some months ago Tobias got sent to his room over something little he did, then as he is prone to, he threw a tantrum over getting in trouble. While in his room he disassembled his bed and then proceeded to pick some paint off the wall. Ugh! He used to do this as a toddler when he was bored but hadn't done it in 3 years so I was really frustrated. He seemed genuinely remorseful afterwards and we worked through it but I left it there for awhile so he could see the consequences. 

Except then Peter took advantage of the beginnings of a hole in the paint and widened it....a lot. 

So then we had a hand-sized swath of paint chipped off and in need of sanding and repainting. Luckily unemployment is a good time to tackle those inexpensive-but-time-consuming projects like painting. Unluckily we had no extra blue paint and didn't know the correct color. to match it. Luckily it was on the wall at the head of their beds, a perfect spot for an accent wall!

*I'll apologize in advance for the spotty picture quality. I'm still working on using the iPhone's camera well and I had natural lighting but still certain parts came out blurry*

Their room had been bothering me for a bit, it just seemed like it was boring and too-big for two busy little boys. Especially when compared to the girls' cute and purposely-designed rooms. Not that it *has* to be something fancy but I like to have fun with the kids' rooms because I'm sure as heck not painting a life-size tree on the wall and ceiling of my kitchen  ;)

Last week we took a trip to Home Depot to browse paint samples and came home with several. We were thinking of doing the wall either all gray, gray with stripes, or stenciled with large gray stars on the blue. Kyle was concerned about getting the stars even and I didn't want them randomly put up so we needed an alternative, hence the stripes idea. We also considered a glittery gray wall to bring in a "star" element since the room is space-themed. 

Tobias is six now so I asked him his opinion and he looked at all the paint chips and said "I want this one and this one in stripes", pointing to the one bright orange paint chip. I laughed and directed him to other things. Kyle said "no way."

As you can tell, we were both wrong. Tobias remained adamant about the orange and I started to think it might not look bad and really, it's just one wall. It's the boys' bedroom. Who cares? If it looked awful worst case scenario we'd paint over the one wall again.

So orange it was! And then came the Great Stripe Wars of 2014! We were envisioning large, modern stripes, maybe with a cool pattern to them. Tobias wanted thin pinstripes, all the same size. We only had so much paint so we compromised a bit and gave him stripes the size he wanted and all the dark stripes are the same size but the light orange stripes are a bit different. We drew no less than 6 samples on a piece of paper before coming to an agreement. Who knew six year olds could be so opinionated about paint!?

Kyle painted it and shockingly it looks awesome! I kinda love it. So yes, sometimes 6 year olds make good interior designers.

We've removed the dresser mirror because it kinda gets in the way of the stripes and 2 little boys just don't use a mirror often enough to need it. We're thinking of putting 2 small face-out bookshelves above the dresser on either side of the fish tank for the boys to keep their bedtime reading selections. They are both book dragons, hoarding piles of books in their beds and sleeping sprawled across them every night which is awfully cute but seems dangerous for the books.



P.S. - Our adoption was finalized on Monday and I'll have updates and pics very soon! I'm just waiting on our pictures to get back from our photographer and then I can go photo-crazy.

Monday, September 29, 2014

We have an adoption date!

It's been a long haul but we're finally here. We got an official adoption date for our foster daughter Ana.

Later I'll post all sorts of stats and timeline and fun information and pictures!!! Real pictures of my beautiful oldest girl!  But for now all I'll say is that we will legally and forever and ever be the parents of Ana on October 6th, 2014. *God-willing of course!*

I'd love to ask for your prayers for Ana (this is a good but nerve-wracking time for her), her older sister who has yet to be adopted, her younger brother that his adoption with his aunt should be finalized soon, her baby sister that she continue to grow and thrive in her loving adoptive home, and most importantly Ana's birth parents. Her birthmother is in need of lots of prayers, I recently became aware of yet more legal action regarding her. Join me in praying she has a conversion of heart and comes to take care of herself and those around her. May she set an example of grace and redemption for her daughters someday, and if not may they have the eyes to see the grace that has already been worked in spite of their birthmother's choices.

And please pray for us, that we can be the parents Ana needs, that we have the strength and commitment to maintain all her sibling relationships across distances both geographical and cultural, and that we can love her for the beautiful, messy, artistic, nurturing, energetic, moody, athletic, and sweet girl that she is.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2015 Catholic Planner Update-September

Okay everyone! I'm inching my way to getting the planner all ready to go. I've got 11 out of 12 articles (obtaining one more way well be the death of me) and all the formatting and plugging-in-of-liturgical-dates and finding-of-scripture and pasting-in-proper-copyright-pages is done. Add a few secular holidays (yes I have the day for Saint Hedwig marked but not the Fourth of July, priorities everyone!) and we'll be in business.

I may also add a couple extra pages, like a year-at-a-glance kinda page and a few blank note pages. Because I'm a planner freak and I always like a few extras in my planners (within reason, generally I like an uncluttered approach).

Oh, and I added in December so I could make it start at the beginning of Advent and so that as soon as your planner arrives, whenever that is, you can start using it right away. So it will actually run December 2014-December 2015, 13 months.

And apparently God likes my project, at least I hope I'm interpreting this windfall correctly as such, and we had a small financial windfall that enables me to get the supplies to start printing/binding the planners without dipping into our regular monthly budget. Yay! So I'll be ordering those asap and getting quotes on a few things I won't be doing myself. Color copies are insanely expensive at printing places but their cutting and binding services are very cost-effective so I will likely avail myself of them.

I'll likely have two release dates for the planners: one for the inexpensive digital copy you can download and print yourself and one for the hard copy that you can have arrive at your doorstep all pretty and fancy and ready to write in.

I have a couple blog posts in the works, some on dyslexia and remediating reading for dyslexics as well as a post raving about how awesome Ana's school is. And some other pictures of the little ones and an ADOPTION DATE!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pew Seatbelts...Let's Make This Happen

Awhile ago I noticed a bunch of fantastic posts from bloggers on kids (particularly babies and toddlers) in Mass. There were so many tips and tricks and the advice ran the gamut of "have high expectations and the little ones follow along" to "bring snacks and coloring books and if you have to leave for a bit it's okay." 

And I've given advice on church behavior too, and mostly we did well with our first. And then Peter came along and he's, well, he's Peter. But he's three now and downright reasonable! I mean, he can last a whole hour without destroying anything or dissolving into a pool of tears usually. 

Plus I have this awesome new secret weapon!

My HUSBAND comes with me! Mwahaha! Try to get away with your usual antics now you crazy children, there are now two of us in the pew to wrestle you into compliance! 

Seriously, I've never experienced going to church on Sunday morning with my husband regularly....and it is awesome-sauce!


There is a but.

But, now Tahlia is about to turn two and if three makes my kids reasonable then two definitely makes them insane. I always threaten to send them to preschool the whole time they're two, the entire year. They make big messes, break things, scream, cry, throw themselves on the floor, run in circles, and generally cause mayhem. And this mayhem does not participate in the Sabbath day...or even a sabbath hour for that matter. 

In fact, our current almost-two year old just got into all our nice, neat Dave Ramsey-style envelopes and was sitting in a pile of cash on our bedroom floor. Fun!

Don't let that look of innocence fool you. She's a little beastie!

All this to say that Mass today was terrible. Tahlia just did not want to sit still. She squirmed and kicked, grabbed things and cried, whined and fussed and generally made a nuisance of herself. Then Peter decided to join in the fun and threw a tantrum too. Yay! I ended up standing in a side room holding her and then my back hurt so I gave up and took her to the car and strapped her in the carseat...where she happily sat still and played with her toes for the next 15 minutes.

So I am proposing a solution. Pew seatbelts! We need seat belts, or rather a 5-point harness attached to the pews for toddlers and preschoolers. Because my kids, and most kids I've seen, submit to being contained in a car seat for an hour no problem. Heck, mine have been known to make 8 hour road trips with nary a peep! But bring them in church? Nope, suddenly they act like I'm poking them with hot needles instead of just asking them to sit relatively still and somewhat quiet in the pew with a snack and crayons to color with.

If anyone is feeling ambitious, please invent and sell pew seat belts. They'll need to be a 5-point harness, attach temporarily to the pew, and hold up to a 40lb child securely. Surely this can be done? I mean, we have the internet and stuff, surely a pew seat belt doesn't need to be in the realm of science fiction!

If you make them, send me one, please.

I'll pay you I promise, just as soon as I figure out where Tahlia put the spending money....

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Toddler Fall Wardrobe: Skirts and Tights

I don't know what it is about me and fall? Apparently it makes me clean and organize my house and it also makes me sew stuff. Specifically clothes for my youngest daughter. Like her whole wardrobe. Cause I'm crazy. 

So I'll introduce you to her wardrobe:

First I went to Target and bought 4 cheap long-sleeved t-shirts. Then off to Jo-anns I went, coupons in hand! I found four coordinating fabrics to match each shirt and whipped up new four skirts!

I love toddler skirts, and just skirts in general. But there is no way in h-e-double-hockeysticks that I am paying $17 for a silly skirt that my daughter will outgrow in 6 months. That'd be crazy! But I also want her to look cute. Sewing might not always be *the* cheapest way to get clothes, probably shopping at the thrift store exclusively would be the cheapest but our thrift store has terrible selection and I just want cuter clothes than I can usually find there. Sewing fills in that gap between what I want (name brand, cute toddler clothes) and the budget I have (um, since my husband is unemployed....very little).

I mentioned the clothes before so I won't babble on and on about them. I just wanted to share the pics of all the outfits in action. (Be Warned: squirmy toddler = blurry photos, so sorry!)

First up, the purple modern outfit!

Second, the classic cream and pink combo!

Third, the fun sparkly silver and coral and purplish gray combo! 

Lastly, the yellow polka dots and lacey cream shirt combo!A definite win with the super-yellow blonde hair :)

I also found tights to go with each outfit. Tahlia is comfy and warm and can move freely but also happens to look super cute. Win-Win!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Autumn Home Things

When Kyle was searching for a new pastoral call back when we lived in West Virginia we had the luxury of job-hunting with stable, if unpleasant, employment for the foreseeable future. So we really talked about what we wanted and what we didn't want. We knew we'd be moving out of West Virginia, that was a given. And the first thing we both agreed upon was that we would not consider moving anywhere without four real seasons. None of this Summer, Summer, Summer, Monsoon! from Arizona. Or Almost-Winter, Winter, Not Quite Winter, and Construction of Minnesota (actually Minnesota wasn't too bad but still, a 5 month Winter was just a bit much. No, we wanted a snowy winter, flowery spring, warm summer, and a cool autumn with real leaves turning colors and falling from the trees. 

And we totally found that! Now, no place beats New Hampshire/Vermont for Autumn weather and color, but Pennsylvania holds its own for sure! We're already able to leave the windows open for a cool breeze all day and night and I've got the fall decorations out. Life is good. 

I keep the same wreath most of the year, it's a plain twiggy sort of leaf and I just wrap it with leaves or flowers as suits the season. This year I cut the head off a fake sunflower and hot glued it to a pin which can be clipped or unclipped from the wreath. I think it spruces it up a good bit.

Kyle picked up some mums, and our front porch is officially ready to go for Autumn!

I also picked up these adorable little owl salt and pepper shakers at Target. Aren't they adorable? There were navy blue ones too which I adored but just wouldn't match my kitchen and I love the look of cream/white against our dark green countertops and wood trim. Yes, I have green laminate counters and oak trim and I actually kinda love them :)

Of course the fall candles came out as well.

And then the apple crisp and vanilla frozen yogurt! I LOVE apple crisp, it is heaven in my oven, totally magical.

And, perhaps because I'm motivated and perhaps because it's only eaten a couple times a year, I actually cook this one! Yep, I measure stuff and toss it in bowls and grease a pan and use the oven! Craziness! (for new readers: I hate cooking, I'm bad at it, I just don't do it....I can throw together a mean sandwich or salad but that's about it).

Here's the recipe I use. It's a combo of a couple different recipes.

Apple Crisp

12-14 apples
1 cup sugar
4tsp cinnamon
1.5 cup flour
1/3 cup oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Peel and cut apples
2. Place apples in a greased 9x13in glass pan
3. Combine sugar and cinnamon, stirring well
4. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the apples
5. Combine the flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla, mixing with a spoon until a crumble mixture is formed and all ingredients are well-blended. Add flour as needed to make it crumbly if it's not crumbly enough at first.
6. Spread this mixture over the sugared apples.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the topping is a golden brown.

Cool and serve with ice cream or other frozen treat of your choice!
(~14 servings)

Add a little Gilmore Girls, soccer, sweaters, scarves, argyle socks, riding boots, and hot chocolate and that's how we do Autumn!